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The time came, when looking up at those heights, about twilight, she watched an object more welcome to her young eyes than the sparkle of the evening star, there first seen in the pale blue of a fading day of summer—the figure of her beloved new visitor, in her brother's absence, the gipsy boy Zephaniah, in lofty distance appearing over the rock ridge, and meditating his steep descent to the beloved tent.
The passions of those little subjected to conventional forms, like these self-outlawed people, brook not long delay. The youth pressed her to name a day for their marriage; nor did her heart lag behind his in wishes, except from her reluctance to admit another there, who might seem to lessen the exclusive hold her dear brother had possessed on its whole affections so long. While she coyly dallied with his impatience, rather than resisted it, a terrible trial awaited her. One evening he mysteriously informed her that he had been “in danger, but escaped;" and his arch eyes asked sympathy in this his good fortune, which however involved some fearful secret. He had entered the small farmhouse of an old couple, reputed rich, to obtain gold, “to make merry," as he said, “ on their wedding-day."
The farmer, it appeared, was waking when the robber believed him asleep, and raised an outcry, which he, in the wild cruelty of fear-on that first occasion of peril of life, from discovery—suppressed by violent blows. A light burning in the chamber revealed his features to the aged wife, and he “missed the gold at last,” he said. And whence his escape? Through the apprehension and committal for trial of another gipsy, to whose identity both sufferers swore. And it was in this cruel exultation that the ruffian dared to ask the sympathy of the yet innocent girl. But she had been bred in the life, without the lawless habits of the common gipsy, companioning with inanimate and innocent things--with flowers, and birds, and lambs--and shrunk from the embrace of those inhuman arms, lately raised against feeble age and innocence.
“ Would to God I had died before this day!" she sobbed, in the agony of her heart's revolted feelings, recoiling from him she so fondly loved, and had esteemed; “ died, and never known-never dreamed that you
could have done this!”. “And this is your love for me!” he exclaimed. “ You would rather I should suffer than another-a stranger? I have trusted my life in your hands, and you will betray me if I don't prevent you. Now, by my soul, I'll never see you more! To be safe, I must forsake such a
“Oh, stop!-oh, no!" she cried, wringing her hands. ** Though you seem no longer the same you were, nor I to myself, but a wretched and a wicked girl, knowing this shocking thing ; yet, as my betraying you could not undo the wrong you have done to those poor old souls, nor save that poor creature mistaken for you, (for I being but a poor gipsy girl, who would believe me?) though I would have died to save them to save your soul alive; yet now, I promise
Laughing by an effort, he denied the truth of his tale, and restored peace to the poor girl's heart, in that moment of its deadly sinking. Clasping him passionately, she playfully brought over her beautiful Deck the arm she had instinctively thrown off, on the dreadful announcement of his crime, and fondlingly replacing herself within the fold of his embrace, as a bird resuming the covert of its nest, she ex
pressed all the rapture she felt at again feeling him her “own," as she said, “ her own innocent !” and vowed that had the sad tale been true, never could she have been aiding in bringing him to justice, even although her silence had connived at the unjust death of an innocent man. A fatal vow, the rashness of which was to be proved on the morrow.
On that morrow, news of the crime, and of the death of the beaten man, and capture of a gipsy found near the premises, reached the hamlet Cynwil Caio, near the Cothey Vale; and ere long, she ascertained that this unfortunate person, who so strikingly resembled her lover, the real culprit, that two persons swore to his identity as the offender, was no other than her dear father-brother, her life's companion and protector, Gilbert !
A fearful trial for the bosom of passionate, tender, inexperienced sixteen! A brother or a lover was to be sacrificed for the other's sake, and by her formal act!-her information before a justice in the distant country town, of the confession of the murderer—a confession made in trusting love to her and her alone! Young as he was, that lover was a character of deep guile, one well versed in the female heart, and instinctively learned in all the sophistry which self-love and love combined can weave like a net for the perdition of a soul. He avowed his resolution to save her brother, by surrendering himself to justice; he “would release her brother," he said, “ and send him to to be her comforter, if, indeed, she needed comforting under his fatea welcomer companion of her future days that brother than he, her lover.”—And these words he knew would be torture to her heart, terrible to her imagination-the self-sacrifice he promised, of itself almost expiating his fault, to her fond fancy, and rendering the loss of him still more insupportable.
Meanwhile days followed days; cut off by mountains from the converse of others, she learned the time of the dreaded assize from her lover's information only, and still just setting out on her dismal travel, still delayed its commencement, still reproaching herself for leaving her brother-and such a brother—to die!-oh, no, not to die—such thought never found entrance, if it were ever whispered by some fiend to her unhappy heart—but to languish a day, an hour, in prison, and she, knowing his innocence, yet deferring to testify thereto! She set forth at last. Could she refuse to him-her lover—who had so few days to live-who was about to devote his life to the salvation of another'scould she in mercy refuse her society to him during that journey?
They approached the town. It was Sunday; and the gaily-attired townspeople, walking out for air in a golden evening, formed a striking contrast to the dusty, wayworn appearance of this singular pair. In a lonely lane of the outskirts, he suddenly stopped, and turned on hers a face pale with fury, and malignantly triumphing in the melancholy expression of hers. Pointing to a distant dead wall, made visible by the long level beams of the setting sun—“Do you see that high build
ing?” he inquired—“that is the gaol, my love !—the shambles where you are lovingly leading me as a lamb to the slaughter! My Lydia will grieve to learn that I am yet to live a little longer—that the assizes finished yesterday! Find what barn or hollow tree thou likest best, for a night's lodging, love, and to-morrow, perhaps, we shall meet again.” So saying, he vanished.
Stunned in mind, and worn out with fatigue, the unhappy girl, stretched under a lonely oak all night, at last fell asleep. Astonished at the deathlike sleep she could hardly shake off, and at the late hour to which it had been prolonged, on waking, she saw the sun, like a great fire-globe, glaring through a dense fog, and heard the buzz of many people crossing the top of the green lane where she had been lying. She followed, half conscious of some impending horror, and found herself soon before a scaffold, erected against the prison-wall, in the midst of a dumb, awe-stricken crowd, gazing up at a convict, in grave-clothes, that moment come forth to die. No sooner had the sufferer cast his eye on the orb which he was never to see set again, than be exclaimed, stretching both arms towards its magnified disk, as if it had been the very eye of that God to whom he appealed from Man
“Innocent, by God! By the God who sees me die, I die innocent!” And a female voice, terrible from the agony its tones betrayed, reechoed his cry—“Innocent, innocent!” and in a moment, the exquisite figure of the gipsy girl, whose beauty and symmetry not all the wild desperation of gestures and looks could destroy, was seen struggling through the crowd, to reach the foot of the scaffold; and all the while, her eyes being riveted on her brother, the priest, and the executioner, she continued to exclaim, as the burial-service proceeded—" Stop that dreadful man in black !—stop his mouth!-snatch his book! Will they bury him alive? Help me, some dear Christian soul, to climb to him! Murder, murder!” she shrieked, as the executioner drew down the dreadful cap (sad mockery of comfort associated with ideas of repose and the night that will pass away ?), and placed in the dying man's hand something which he might throw down, as a signal of his readiness to depart—it was a flower !-(still sadder desecration of gentle sympathies and pleasant associations of thought!) Then, having tried to climb by one pole of the scaffolding, and being gently drawn back by the bystanders, who whispered, " The poor wretch's sweet
“ heart!” she cried out—“A curse upon the souls of all who hinder me! A crown in heaven for him who helps me save him-my brother!--my dear, my innocent!” And, by an astonishing effort, in a minute more, she had clambered, with the agility of a wild cat or tigress, above the reach of those below, and presented her pathetic face, white even to the lips, and still sweet in all that ghastliness of horror, just above the scaffold-floor, startling the functionaries present, and, as it were, recalling to the world he had already parted from in soul, the unhappy victim of a fatal personal likeness and rash wit
Roused by the unusual commotion, he slowly, and like one, unwillingly resisting, wished-for sleep, pushed up the cap from his eyes, and saw his sister-his guilty, ungrateful sister!—such to his thoughts, for obscure rumours had reached him in prison, that she was revelling in guilty pleasures with the very man for whose crime he was to die the death of a felon. Their eyes met for the first time.
“Stop, but to curse me! Stop, till I prove your innocence to these horrid men!” she cried, nearly exhausted.
“ To kiss thee?” he inquired, with a hollow, horrid voice, half hearing what she said.
“ Oh, no! oh, no!” she answered, “I did not-dared not, ask that! Yet would you be so merciful, Gilbert, to hear me—but hear me hear me swear I never thought
The wretched brother, either in indignant impatience of what he thought her mock-penitence, or only wishful to end a dreadful scene that was fast forcing him back into the vortex of life's passions and regrets, fixed one stern, yet most heart-broken look upon the half fainting girl, then, with his pinioned arm, imperfectly drawing the cap over his eyes, threw down desperately the flower—his death signal. The wretched Lydia, whose sight swam in darkness, the next moment saw only the veil which he had drawn between them for ever and for ever!
BY JOHN OXEN FOR D.
[Eric III., King of Denmark, who died at the beginning of the 19th century, was the beau ideal of a monarch of the middle ages. He was so strong that he could throw a lance, sitting, further than any one else could throw one, standing. He could take a rope in each hand, and let two strong men, one holding each of the other ends, pull at them without stirring him from his seat; day, if they did not let the ropes go, he would draw them close to him. He was victorious over the Sclavonians, who were addicted to piracy, and was esteemed a wise and just ruler. On one occasion, according to Saxo-Grammaticus, he distrusted a musician, who told him that he could inspire anger by his art, and bade him try the experiment on himself. The attempt was but too successful ; for not only did the music rouse him to the most boisterous passion, but he killed several soldiers who came to restore order. Recovering his senses, he was so deeply stricken with remorse, that he vowed he would make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to atone for his crime. He aetually began the journey, but died at the Isle of Cyprus, before he reached Palestine.]
“ Nay, prate not of thy puny art, I tell thee once again,
And oft I feel soft pleasure, when mine ears have drunk the sound;
Thou speakest vain and idle words; indeed, thou know'st it well.
And bring a pair of stubborn ropes, I'll hold one in each hand;
And let them pull with all their might-I'll drag them to my throne.
And, know, the soul that dwells within is fashion'd of the same.
No; sooner shall the evening breeze o'erthrow the strongest tower.
And I can listen calmly to the poet's artful words;
I see thou smilest proudly; come then, try, if 'tis thy will,
' strings the harper's fingers sweep,
The harper and the royal hall have vanish'd from his eyes,
The guards are rushing in, they must restrain their raging king,
The harp-oh will it never cease ?—still sings its fearful song,
“Oh, harper-ruthless harper! I must ever curse the hour,
When, trusting to my earthly might, I dared to test thy pow'r.
The royal hand of Eric with his subjects' blood' is stain'd!
At Jesus' tomb in Palestine, to expiate my crime ;
* In this ballad I have so far modified the historical legend, that I have made King Eric defy the harper from a notion of his own strength, whereas the legend makes him doubt the power of music to raise fury generally.-J. O..